Proceedings Report: NAMI American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Listening Session
NAMI strives to become a truly inclusive organization that embraces and celebrates the diversity of its membership. The NAMI American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Mental Health Listening Session—a meeting of national experts on AI/AN mental health—was held in early 2009 in recognition of this goal. Through structured dialogue, participants shared personal experiences and expertise to identify opportunities to improve support for AI/AN populations. The report covers the participants’ rich discussions of historical context, cultural considerations, pressing issues in AI/AN mental health and what both the greater mental health system and NAMI can do.
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It is our hope that this report not only guides NAMI, but also provides a model for other mental health organizations or agencies to collaborate with AI/AN communities as well as offer key points for further consideration of the broader mental health system to better support this population.
Priority considerations for the mental health system as a whole are presented in the report under the following categories:
barriers to quality care;
cultural competence; and
advocacy and community collaboration.
In addition to pointing out AI/AN mental health disparities and community concerns, participants shared examples of what is working and what they recommend for mental health systems within each of these priority areas. Recommendations for NAMI are framed as short- and long-term goals in several priority areas identified by participants regarding organizational readiness, outreach efforts, education and support programs and meaningful membership and leadership roles for AI/AN individuals and families.
Based on participants’ recommendations, the report identifies five key next steps for NAMI:
create advisory roles for AI/AN individuals to offer feedback and guidance;
develop a list of potential partners and media outlets;
develop and disseminate resources for providers, AI/AN individuals living with mental illness and their families;
obtain and review feedback from AI/AN participants of education and support program; and
collect demographic data to ensure AI/AN individuals and families are accessing NAMI programs and events and that this community is represented among NAMI membership.
The Multicultural Action Center will work with the AI/AN Leaders Group as well as NAMI’s broader grassroots leadership to achieve these next steps and effectively address AI/AN inclusion and support. The NAMI AI/AN Leaders group is an advisory body to the Multicultural Action Center, offering invaluable advice on the activities, resources, etc. necessary to successfully address the needs of those in the AI/AN community with mental illness and their families. To join this group, contact MACenter@nami.org.